On October 11, 2021, CCI penalized PMP Infratech (‘PMP’) and Rati Engineering (‘RATI’) (together, ‘OPs’) along with their director(s)/partner(s) for contravention of Sections 3(1) and 3(3)(d) of the Act. PMP is engaged in the business of pre-engineering building services, road construction and bridge construction services and RATI is engaged in the business of engineering, architectural and surveying services.
CCI, through its order of January 7, 2020, had directed the DG to investigate into a matter, upon receiving information from GAIL. GAIL floats tenders for contract hiring of services, restoration of, and disposal of drilling waste from site locations in Ahmedabad and Anand. Based on a competitive bidding process, tenders were awarded in FY 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. During a routine investigation conducted by GAIL, it found that PMP and RATI colluded while bidding for tenders in FY 2017 and 2018, by competing in tender process through the same IP address and submitting bids just one day apart from each other, despite having registered offices in different cities.
In its analysis, CCI found from the investigation report that the emails collected by the DG revealed that the OPs were in regular contact with each other during the relevant period, when the Tender No. 8000011934, dated September 29, 2017 (‘T-2’) was issued by GAIL. On September 29, 2017, GAIL forwarded the information regarding the tender to its prospective bidders, including PMP, for wider publicity. This was in turn forwarded to Shri Dhaval Patel of RATI on October 25, 2017. The OPs then participated in this tender by submitting their respective bids. PMP submitted its bid on October 26, 2017 and RATI submitted its bid on October 27, 2017 from the same IP address (and the same office premises) of PMP. The OPs also exchanged the technical queries raised by GAIL on the bids submitted by them against the impugned tender – T2.
Shri Yogesh Patel, Tender Executive of PMP, while recording his statement on oath before the DG admitted to the fact that the queries raised by GAIL to RATI were forwarded to PMP ‘for appropriate response on behalf of RATI’. He confirmed in his response that Shri Dhaval Patel of RATI shared the confidential information relating to bid submitted by RATI to its competitor, i.e. PMP and further also admitted that he prepared a suitable reply and forwarded it to RATI for submission to GAIL.
When CCI confronted the individual(s) of PMP about the fact of submission of bids from a common IP within a gap of one day from the same office, PMP’s individual accepted that the bids were indeed submission from the office premises of PMP. He cited technical reasons for RATI’s inability to submit the bids from their office. However, CCI did not find any evidence of this alibi. In fact, the found it rather egregious for competitors to use the same office premises and systems to submit the bids for which they are competing. Therefore, CCI recorded a finding of Section 3(3)(d) read with Section 3(1) of the Act and penalized the OPs along with their director(s)/ partner(s). CCI took a lenient view while imposing penalties because of the mitigation circumstances highlighted by the OPs, i.e., their business was struggling and that a penalty would severely affect the financial viability of the business.
 GAIL (India) Limited v. PMP Infratech Private Limited and Anr., Case No. 41 of 2019, Order dated October 11, 2021.